Text: Dwight R. Thomas, “Chapter 08: 1844,” Poe in Philadelphia, 1838-1844 (1978), pp. 660-696


[page 660:]




1844: The Opal for 1844 contains Poe's “Morning on the Wissahiccon.”

NOTE: This pastoral sketch is the only one of his stories which depicts the landscape in the Philadelphia area; the Wissahiccon was a stream on the outskirts of the city which he often visited (see the directory entry for John S. Detwiler). In his May 2.8, 1844, letter to James Russell Lowell (Letters, I, 253-54), Poe referred to the sketch as “The Elk,” a title it has subsequently borne.

January, 1844

JANUARY: The London Foreign Quarterly Review (Vol. 32, pp. 291-324) publishes a lengthy critique of “American Poetry” by an anonymous writer. This reviewer begins with the assumption that few Americans are worthy to be called poets: “before we close this article we hope to satisfy the reader that, with two or three exceptions, there is not a poet of mark in the whole Union.” He is especially critical of Rufus W. Griswold's anthology The Poets and Poetry of America: “The anthology is ‘got up’ in a style creditable to the American press. But we are loth to pay a compliment [page 661:] to the printers at the expense of the poets. ... . All the poetasters who could be scrambled together are crammed into the volume, which is very large, double-columned, and contains nearly five hundred pages. ... . By dint of hunting up all manner of periodicals and newspapers, and seizing upon every name that could be found attached to a scrap of verse in the obscurest holes and corners, Mr. Griswold has mustered upwards of a hundred ‘poets.’” Only several Americans win praise from this exacting British critic. Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have revealed “unmistakable manifestations of an original and poetical mind.” The reviewer quotes several passages from Emerson's poem “To the Humble Bee,” which he compares to Milton's “L’Allegro.” His highest praise is awarded to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “His [Longfellow's] mind was educated in Europe . ... . But America claims him, and is entitled to him; and has much reason to be proud of this ripe and elegant scholar. He is unquestionably the first of her poets, the most thoughtful and. chaste; the most elaborate and finished.” This critic has only slight praise for Edgar Allan Poe, whom he regards as a skilled imitator of a contemporary British poet: “Poe is a capital artist after the manner of Tennyson; and approaches the spirit of his original more closely than any of them.” He quotes passages from “The Haunted Palace” and “The Sleeper” as “a specimen of the metrical imitation”; yet he grants Poe one virtue: “These passages have a spirituality in them, usually denied to imitators; who rarely possess the property recently discovered in the mocking-birds — a solitary note of their own.”

NOTE: The editors of The Letters of Charles Dickens, II, 106-07, n. 6, attribute this controversial review to John Forster, Dickens’ friend and biographer. However, many [page 662:] Americans of the time believed that it came from the same pen which produced American Notes. On January 31, 1844, The Spirit of the Times, p. 2, col. 3, published John S. Du Solle's opinion: “THE ARTICLE in the Foreign Quarterly [Review] in relation to American Poetry, is attributed by many to the pen of Dickens. We know not why. It certainly bears not one of his characteristics. We don’t believe the rumor.” In his July 2, 1844, letter to James Russell Lowell (Letters, I, 256-59), Poe stated that he was convinced of Dickens’ authorship because he had discussed “Nearly every thing in the critique” with the British novelist during their two interviews in Philadelphia. There is no reason to doubt Poe's statement: his own evaluation of “American Poetry” and of Griswold's anthology, as given in his lecture series which commenced on November 21, 1843, was scarcely less severe than this reviewer's.

JANUARY 2: The Delaware State Journal, p. 2, cols. 2-3, publishes a lengthy letter from “Academicus,” a correspondent in Newark, Delaware, who describes a recent lecture on “American Poetry” which Poe delivered to the faculty and students of the Newark Academy:

For the Delaware Journal.

NEWARK, December 23d, 1843.

Mr. Editor: This evening I have had the pleasure of listening to the fourth of a series of Lectures got up in the Academy for the benefit of the students during the present term, but open to all who may choose to attend. The unprecedented state of our streets on which the skies had:poured their burdens for ten days together; and the short and circumscribed notice, which a late change in the evening appointed for the Lecture, permitted to be given, occasioned a much thinner house, than more favourable circumstances would have brought out. As it was, however, we observed the Faculty of the College — the Teachers of the Academy — a large [page 663:] proportion of the students of both departments, as well as a considerable number of the more intelligent of the citizens of the place: —”fit audience tho’ few.”

The Lecture was an eloquent production eloquently delivered by Edgar A. Poe, Esq., of Philadelphia and at present editorially connected with that best and most popular of our lighter monthlies — Graham's Magazine [sic ]. His theme was the “Poetry of America “ — a topic particularly appropriate to one who has himself acquired so honorable a place among the Poets of the land, and who has proven himself to possess in no small degree the high qualifications he demands in his brethren of the inspired pen. Mr. Poe is also well known as a fearless and perhaps somewhat severe critic of American Poesy and has not unfrequently brought down upon himself the wrath. of many of the “genus irritable.” His right however to speak freely is one which by his own writings he has earned, and holds by the acknowledged law of Parnassus

“Let such teach others who themselves excel,

And censure freely who have written well.”

It is perfectly impossible to convey to a reader from the fragments preserved by [a] not very faithful memory, any worthy impression of the rich tide of thought and imagery with which our Lecturer charmed his audience for almost two hours. Nor is such the object I proposed to myself in commencing this letter. My design is more humble and will aim only to give to your readers a general sketch of the outlines of the discourse, with, however, the privilege reserved of enlarging a little upon some of its more interesting and prominent points.

After a graceful exordium and prospective apology for the foreseen necessary length of remarks designed to cover so wide a field, our Lecturer approached the body of his theme. The proper criterion by which we may safely judge of the present state of the poetic art in America and of the comparative excellence of the productions of our different bards first occupied his attention. In this part of the subject the system of puffery at present common with our newspapers, magazines, and even dignified reviews was most clearly and indignantly exposed and condemned. Editors of newspapers building up large Libraries for which they pay by wholesale and indiscriminate puffs of works whose title pages they have hardly had time to copy. — Authors reviewing and praising their own writings, or securing the bespoken praises of a friend — booksellers [page 664:] and publishers promoting the sale of their goods by measures equally corrupt, all received their full share of severe rebuke. The severities as well as the flatteries of the critical press were shown in many instances to spring from personal feelings and interests and the general proposition was well maintained, that the criticism of the American press, corrupt and venal as it has become, was not a fair mirror of the defects or of the excellencies of American Poetry. While on the subject of criticism our Lecturer was especially witty and sarcastic in reference to a peculiar style of reviewing not unknown in New England, ‘yclept the “Transcendental.” The wonderful involutions and dislocations by which good English words were made to wrap up the fancies of their mis-users until the little sense that was intended was forever buried like the Roman nymph, under the mass of its ornaments, were capitally parodied and exposed. In this connection also, the doctrine was advanced and by a very finely conducted argument enforced: — that the prime office of criticism was to detect and correct what was faulty, and not to point out or praise what was good.

After showing the incompetency of our criticism, as at present managed, to present a true picture of American Poetry, our Lecturer turned to an inspection of the works themselves of our poets — and especially to the several “collections “ of American poetry which have successively appeared as representing the state of the art in our country. After a cursory examination and criticism of some five or six such “collections” in the order of their publication, the late compilation of Rev. Rufus W. Griswold, styled the “Poets and Poetry of America,” was introduced — as the last and best — tho’ by no means unobjectionable. This book and its author were handled by the critical Lecturer in not the most gentle manner. Many names had been inserted which Apollo would have refused and some (such as Morris and Conrad) left out, which the muses have acknowledged. The selections from those admitted have been made with a miserable want of judgment — the worst specimens being often chosen instead of the best, — and an extravagant proportion of space allotted to personal friends — altho’ inferior poets — (as in the case of Mr. Hoffman) — while superior merit has been put off with a single page. After thus preparing the way, some eight or ten of our lady poets were introduced one by one and dismissed to their appropriate seats in the temple of Fame, after whom, came the five steel [page 665:] plate faces of Mr. Griswold's frontispiece, in their order — Dana, Bryant, Halleck, Sprague and Longfellow. The whole was closed with a highly philosophical and eloquent discourse on the true end and province of poetry and condemnation of what the Lecturer was pleased to term the “didacticism “ of modern Poetry.

Such, Mr. Editor, is a brief sketch of one of the most interesting and instructive lectures I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. I have attempted but the merest skeleton, — for the life and beauty you must supply if you can, Mr. Poe's ever ready and ever beautiful imagery, and glowing diction. It would afford me pleasure to devote an hour or two to a review of some of the topics presented in the Lecture. The doctrines of the office of criticism — and of the End and Province of Poetry are those upon which I would most like to dilate: but the time is not now. Perhaps I may sometime again, if an opportunity should offer, attempt to sustain an appeal from the decisions pronounced by our Lecturer on these two topics.

We have some hopes of having another Lecture from Mr. Poe on the first Friday of January — and in the course of the winter we understand Lectures are expected from David Paul Brown, Esq., Revd. Dr. Parker, Revd. Mr. Brainerd, Hon. Charles Marim, Edward G. Bradford, Esq., and other prominent men from abroad, besides several of the members of our Faculty.


NOTE: “Academicus” may have been William S. Graham, the Principal of the Newark Academy; his December 23, 1843, letter to the Delaware State Journal seems to be the most detailed account of Poe's lecture on “American Poetry.” There is no evidence that Poe delivered a second lecture at the Newark Academy. The January 16 issue of the Journal, p. 2, cols. 2-4, contained another letter from “Academicus,” dated January 9, describing the “Lectures Chemical, Astronomical and Philosophical” then being delivered at the Academy; in this letter he alluded to the “skeleton of Mr. Poe's eloquent lecture on American Poe -sy” which he had forwarded “A few days ago.” [page 666:]

JANUARY 6: In the Saturday Museum, p. 2, col. 2, Thomas C. Clarke explains why The Doom of the Drinker is appearing simultaneously in two different journals:


The Public Ledger notices Mr. Willis’ commendation of our great Temperance Novel in a manner which it supposes will be injurious to the Museum.

The admirable designs of Mr. Darley were made, and the Novel itself written, expressly, for the Saturday Museum. This the Ledger was aware of, but with the possession of this knowledge, it attempts to convey a different impression.

With the immensely diminished circulation, and rapidly decreasing influence of that precious concern, we, perhaps, should be content to let this vicious exhibition pass for what it is worth, satisfied that its power is far short of it[s] disposition to do harm. We should so let it pass, but for the opportunity which is afforded of correcting any misapprehension that may arise from the fact of the “Doom of the Drinker” appearing simultaneously in two works — the Temperance Magazine and the Museum. This has arisen from a disposition, on our part, to oblige the gentlemanly editor of the Cold Water Magazine, who is zealously laboring in the great cause to which this country is already so largely indebted. — Of limited circulation, appearing but monthly, and operating in a different sphere altogether from that in which we are occupied, we have cheerfully admitted it to a participation in the deep interest which this masterly production is everywhere exciting. This is a species of liberality which small minds may be incapable of appreciating, and which vicious ones will in vain attempt to distort to our disadvantage.

NOTE: For an explanation of Clarke's quarrel with the Public Ledger, see the chronology for November 23, December 22, 25, 29, 30, 1843.

JANUARY 8: Three Philadelphia daily newspapers publish advance notices of Poe”s forthcoming lecture on “American Poetry.” The Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. 1, reports: [page 667:] “Edgar A. Poe, Esq., will repeat his lecture on American Poetry, with further illustrations, on Wednesday evening next, at the Lecture Room of the Museum.” The Spirit of the Times, p. 2, col. 4, comments on the ability of the speaker and the quality of his lecture: “Mr. Poe is a correct and graceful reader, and his lecture is not only beautifully written, but commends itself by its good sense and good judgment to the attention of every person of taste.” The notice carried by the United States Gazette, p. 2, col. 3, suggests that the repetition of this lecture was prompted by popular demand: “We learn that Edgar A. Poe, Esq., has consented to repeat, at the Museum, on Wednesday night, his admired lecture on the Poets and Poetry of America. His first lecture was attended by one of the largest and most fashionable audiences of the season; and the Museum will doubtless be crowded by hundreds who were then unable to gain admission.”

NOTE: The repetition of Poe's lecture was welcomed editorially by at least seven Philadelphia newspapers; their notices provide evidence of the popularity of his first lecture and of his growing literary reputation. For further commentary, see the chronology for January 9, 10, 1844.

JANUARY 9: The Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. l, publishes a second notice of Poe's forthcoming address:

Attractive Lecture.

The lecture of Mr. Poe on the Poets and Poetry of America, — one of the most brilliant and successful of the season, will be repeated to-morrow evening, at the Museum. Mr. Poe is one of the most vigorous and beautiful writers in the country, and as a critic, has won great reputation, by the ability, independence, and boldness of his strictures. His style of delivery is finished and effective, and his lecture, which was listened to by a very large and fashionable audience [page 668:] with delight, is certainly one of the best ever delivered in this city. He will doubtless be greeted by a crowded auditory.

Like the Inquirer, the United States Gazette, p. 2, col. 2, carries a second laudatory notice:


Those who would hear a good lecture well delivered should go to the Museum TO-MORROW evening, and hear Mr. Poe upon the Poets and the Poetry of this country. Mr. Poe is himself a poet, an acute critic, and a vigorous prose writer. It is well occasionally to hear such an one upon his own craft, and his fellow craftsmen.

The Public Ledger, p. 2, col. 4, comments: “MR. POE's LECTURE ON AMERICAN POETRY will be repeated to-morrow evening, in the Lecture Room of the Museum. The subject is one of much interest, and in Mr. Poe the audience will find one well qualified by judgment, good taste and perfect independence, to do full justice to it. We anticipate a full audience, one that will be well pleased with the lecture.” In addition to its editorial notice, the Ledger, p. 2, col. 5, carries an advertisement:

LECTURE ON AMERICAN POETRY. — The Lecture on “American Poetry,”’ lately delivered before the William Wirt Institute, by EDGAR A. POE, Esq., will be repeated, with additional illustrations, TO-MORROW (Wednesday) EVENING, at the Lecture Room of the Museum, in GEORGE Street. Tickets may be had at Graham's Periodical Depot, or at Berford's “Publishers’ Hall,” or at the Museum on the night of the Lecture. Single tickets, 25 cents; tickets admitting a gentleman and two ladies, 50 cents. Doors open at half past 6. Lecture to commence at a quarter past 7.

NOTE: On January 10 the advertisement again appeared in the Ledger, p. 1, col. 1.

JANUARY 10: Poe's lecture is noticed by no fewer than [page 669:] five Philadelphia newspapers. The Philadelphia Gazette, p. 2, col. 2, publishes a factual report: “Edgar A. Poe, Esq. will deliver his lecture on ‘American Poetry,’ recently read before the Wirt Institute, at the lecture room of the Museum, this evening.” The Spirit of the Times, p. 2, col. 2, again eulogizes the lecturer and his address: “Mr. P. is a gifted writer, and chaste speaker. His lecture is described to be full of vigorous thought, surpassing taste, and sparkling images.” In its third editorial notice, the Pennsylvania Inquirer, p. 2, col. l, provides additional praise: “The lovers of poetry, and the friends of Mr. Poe, should not forget the lecture to be delivered this evening, in the Lecture Room of the Museum. A literary treat of no common kind may be looked for.” The Pennsylvanian, p. 2, col. 2, also carries a brief notice: “Mr. Edgar A. Poe will lecture this evening at the lecture room of the Museum, on ‘American Poetry,’ and we presume from what we have heard of this discourse and from Mr. Poe's familiarity with the subject, that a piquant discourse may be anticipated.” In The Citizen Soldier (Vol. 2, p. 18) George Lippard comments on Poe's growing fame in many areas of literary endeavor:

LECTURE BY MR. POE. — It is with sincere pleasure we perceive that the excellent lecture lately delivered before the Wm. Wirt Institute by Edgar A. Poe, will be repeated this evening at the Lecture Room of the Philadelphia Museum. The subject “American Poetry,” was handled in the lecture, in an able, effective and original manner, calling forth the most enthusiastic demonstrations of applause from the audience. Mr. Poe is rapidly adding to his towering fame as Poet, Author, Critic, in his new capacity of lecturer; and all friends of a correct and healthy national literature hail with delight, the appearance of an able and eloquent advocate of the right and caustic censor of the wrong. We hope in a short time, to have it in our power to welcome the appearance of a sound Magazine, devoted to all the higher objects of American Literature, edited, owned and controlled by Mr. Poe, [page 670:] and do now most heartily bid him “God-speed” in the cause.

JANUARY 10: In the evening Poe repeats his lecture on “American Poetry” at the Philadelphia Museum.

NOTE: This entry is strongly suggested by the advance notices given in the Philadelphia papers.

JANUARY 10: The Public Ledger, p. 2, col. 5, reports that Thomas Dunn English has become the editor of a weekly paper:

THE IRISH CITIZEN, published by Severns &Magill, has lately been very much impreved [sic ] in its manner and matter. It is a large folio sheet of twenty-eight broad columns, which are well filled with matter of value and interest. We understand that Dr. Thomas Dunn English has become associated with it in the editorial capacity. The Dr. wields a vigorous, and when provoked, a caustic pen. The primary object of the Citizen, as stated in the language of the editor, “is to furnish the naturalized citizens of this country, who were born in Ireland, a knowledge of the affairs and condition of their native land, and to enlighten the new — comer upon the duties which will devolve upon him when he takes the oath of allegiance to the Constitution and Laws of this Union.”

In addition to that which is of interest to Irishmen particularly, it has much of interest to the general reader. The number of Saturday last contains, besides the news of the week, Governor Porter's Message, an admirably written and just sketch of Judge King, several chapters of a tale entitled “The Doom of the Drinker, or Revel and Retribution,” together with a most scorching satire upon hanging, entitled “The Gallows Goers,” by T. Dunn English.

NOTE: No issue of The Irish Citizen is known to exist. Thomas Ollive Mabbott cited references to this weekly by several Philadelphia newspapers in “Poe and the Philadelphia Irish Citizen,” Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, 29 (1931), 121-31. The Ledger's January 10, [page 671:] 1844, notice does not appear to have been recorded: it provides strong evidence that English edited The Irish Citizen; it establishes that the journal reprinted The Doom of the Drinker, and it provides further evidence that Poe and other Philadelphians would have known that English wrote this novel. For additional information on Poe, English, and The Irish Citizen, see the chronology for January 31, 1844.

JANUARY 10: Charles J. Peterson, in Philadelphia, writes James Russell Lowell in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

Thanks for your copy of “The Legend of Brittany &other Poems.” My impatience, however, did not allow me to wait until I heard from you, but the gift is none the less valued, nor shall it be less read. With the principal poem I am delighted. It is a noble work. I remember you once mentioned the subject to me as a highly poetical one, but I really did not think you could make so much of it. I cannot yet make up my mind which are the finest points of the first part; but none of those approaches the power of the second part. I think, if one takes this portion of the poem, beginning with the festival day &that incomparable description of the music of a cathedral organ, that nothing can be found, in any American poet, at all approaching it. Do not think that my friendship for you has bribed my judgment. I would say this unhesitatingly in any circle; as I shall take occasion to say it in the March no. of my magazine, for which I shall throw off a paper on your new volume, declaring more, at length, what I now speak in general terms.

NOTE: MS, Houghton Library, Harvard University. “The Legend of Brittany” was the longest composition in Lowell's Poems, his second collection of verse. Peterson reviewed the volume at length in the March number of his Ladies’ National Magazine (Vol. 5, pp. 95-99), a saccharine monthly which had previously been known as the Lady's World of Fashion. [page 672:]

JANUARY 11: Thomas C. Clarke resigns the editorship of the Saturday Museum. A. Van Wyck becomes the sole proprietor of this newspaper.

NOTE: This entry is provided by a card, dated January 11, published in the Museum, January 20, p. 2, col. l.

JANUARY 13: Poe writes Joel B. Sutherland:

Will you permit me to introduce to you my friend Mr Robert Travers, of this city, who will hand you this note? He is an applicant for a post in the Revenue Service. If you could further his views in any regard, I would consider myself as under the very deepest personal obligation.

Mr Travers is of the Hughes’ family, of Southwark, which has always possessed much political influence. As an experienced seaman, he is, also, well qualified for the appointment he solicits.

NOTE: Letters, I, 240-41. Sutherland was a Philadelphia lawyer who had served five terms in the House of Representatives; at this time he was serving as the naval officer of the Custom House. Robert Travers has not been identified. Southwark was an incorporated suburb bordering Philadelphia on the south.

JANUARY 24: The Baltimore Sun, p. 2, col. 3, reports:

LECTURE BY EDGAR A. POE, ESQ. — We have authority to promise our readers an evening's entertainment within a short time, to consist of a lecture by Mr. Edgar A. Poe, the subject of which we learn will be “American Poetry.” It is scarcely necessary for us to do more than introduce this gentleman by name, as he is so well and popularly known to every admirer of modern literature, not only by the exquisite productions of his own imaginative genius, but by his elaborate, daring and caustic criticisms, which have from time to time enriched the pages of the most popular magazines of the day, and proved him abundantly capable of the task he now proposes. The author of “Tales of the Arabesque and the Picturesque,” [sic ] and within a

[page 673:] short time past admired in that ingenious production of his pen, “The Gold Bug,” which took the first prize of “The Dollar Newspaper,” is sure of a hearty welcome in this city, and equally sure to be honored with, as he is to entertain, a crowded audience on his lecture night.

JANUARY 27: In reviewing the February number of Graham's Magazine for the Baltimore Saturday Visiter, p. 2, col. 3, Joseph Evans Snodgrass finds evidence of Poe's hand: “We note an improvement in the critical department. Is not E. A. POE back again? The long article on Eugene Sue's ‘Mysteries of Paris,’ could scarcely have been written by such a common-place critic as R. W. Griswold.”

NOTE: James Russell Lowell also suspected that Poe had again become the book review editor of Graham's Magazine, but his March 6 letter to him establishes that George R. Graham had not rehired his former employee.

ANTE JANUARY 29 [?]: Poe writes a friend:

My Dear Mr Clark

I am exceedingly anxious to try my fortune in Baltimore with a lecture or two, and wish, if possible, to go immediately. I have some little money —

Very truly yours E A Poe.

NOTE: Letters, I, 241. According to Ostrom, Letters, II, 504, this letter exists only as a manuscript fragment which carries “neither addressee, date, or postal information.” It is not unlikely that Poe was alluding to his Baltimore lecture of January 31 and that he was addressing Thomas C. Clarke. [page 674:]

CIRCA JANUARY 29: Poe is in Baltimore, where he asks the editors of several. newspapers to publish advance notices of his forthcoming lecture on “American Poetry.”

NOTE: This entry is suggested by Poe's letter to Isaac Munroe on January 31 and by notices published in the Baltimore papers on this same day.

JANUARY 31: In the morning Poe writes Isaac Munroe, editor of the Baltimore Patriot, a daily newspaper issued in the afternoon:

I have been endeavouring for the last two days to see you and beg of you to do me the kindness to call attention, in the “Patriot” to a lecture on “American Poetry”, which I propose to deliver this evening (Wednesday) at the Odd Fellows’ Hall in Gay Street. I hope yet to have the honor of seeing you before I leave town.

If not too late, will you say a good word for me in this afternoon's paper.

NOTE: Letters, I, 241-42. The January 31 issue of the Patriot held by the Maryland Historical Society reveals that Munroe complied with Poe's request.

JANUARY 31: Poe's lecture is noticed by at least three Baltimore newspapers. The American, p. 2, col. 6, carries an announcement: “LECTURE. — A lecture will be delivered this evening, in the Egyptian Saloon of the Odd Fellows’ Hall, by EDGAR A. POE, Esq. of Philadelphia. The subject selected by him, —’American Poetry,’ — affords an excellent and interesting theme; and will, without doubt, be treated with ability.” A laudatory editorial appears in The Sun, p. 2, col. 2:

LECTURE OF EDGAR A. POE, ESQ. — It will be seen by a notice in another part of our paper, that the lecture of Mr. Poe, on “American Poetry,” heretofore [page 675:] announced, will be delivered this evening, in the Egyptian Saloon of [the] Odd Fellow's Hall. The name of the lecturer, the subject of the lecture, and the well known adaptation of the talents of the one to the material of the other, form a combination of attractions which will irresistibly result in a crowded audience — and our word for it a delighted one. — We have never yet confessed to the sin of poetry — jogging along steadily in humble prose with now and then the guilt of a poetic quotation only on our heads, we say boldly, “Let the galled jade wince; our withers are unwrung.”

The Sun, p. 1, col. 2, also carries an advertisement:

A LECTURE ON “AMERICAN POETRY” will be delivered by EDGAR A. POE, in the ODD FELLOWS' HALL, in Gay street, on THIS (Wednesday) EVENING, 31st, at half past 7 o’clock, Single tickets 25 cents; admitting a gentleman and two ladies, 50 cents — to be had at Mr. Hickman's book store, at Mr. Isaac P. Cook's, and at the door.

In the afternoon a brief notice appears in the Baltimore Patriot, p. 2, col. 1: “LECTURE. — Edgar A. Poe, Esq. will deliver a lecture this evening, in the Egyptian Saloon of the Odd Fellows Hall. Subject: ‘American Poetry.’ ”

JANUARY 31: In the evening Poe lectures on “American Poetry.”

NOTE: Joseph Evans Snodgrass briefly reviewed Poe's lecture in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter (see the chronology for February 3).

JANUARY 31: The Citizen Soldier (Vol. 2, p. 38) reprints “The Ghost of a Grey Tadpole, by Edgar A. Poe” from The Irish Citizen.

NOTE: According to Heartman and Canny, pp. 241-42, this story was reprinted by the Baltimore Republican and Daily Argus on February 1. In her Poe, I, 851-54, Mary E. Phillips argued that “The Ghost of a Grey Tadpole” was Poe's [page 676:] work. It is actually a clever burlesque of his fiction by Thomas Dunn English; see the explanations given by Mabbott, “Poe and the Philadelphia Irish Citizen,” and by Gravely, “Thomas Dunn English,” pp. 362-67. Both Mabbott and Gravely reprint the story.

February, 1844

FEBRUARY 1: At 7:00 AM Poe writes his early benefactor, John P. Kennedy: “Some matters which would not be put off, have taken me to Elkton — so that I shall not have the pleasure of dining with you to-day, as proposed. Before leaving Baltimore, however, I hope to give you another call.”

NOTE: Letters, II, 704. Nothing is known of Poe's trip to Elkton, Maryland.

FEBRUARY 3: In the Baltimore Saturday Visiter, p. 2, col. 5, Joseph Evans Snodgrass reviews a lecture given earlier in the week:

Edgar A. Poe delivered a lecture in Odd-Fellows Hall, on Wednesday evening — theme “American poetry.” He was very entertaining, and enforced his views well-though to some of them we cannot assent. For instance-that the inculcation of truth is not the highest aim of poetry! He was witheringly severe upon Rufus W. Griswold, and declared it was a shame that he placed the name of N. C. Brooks in the “appendix “ — and so it was a “shame” — but we think we should have prefer[r]ed silence on the topic, had we been placed among the ephemera of a volume large enough certainly to admit of putting all in the body of the work! But such alas, is often the fate of “undiscovered genius.”

FEBRUARY 3: The Doom of the Drinker is concluded in the [page 677:] Saturday Museum, p. 1, cols. 3-6. This issue of the Museum, p. 1, col. 1, features a new contribution by Thomas Dunn English: a burlesque entitled “Stealing from Abroad.” In this article English satirizes the excessive concern of contemporary literati over the question of plagiarism. He assumes the persona of an anonymous correspondent addressing the Museum's editor: from his reading he has learned that many celebrated British and American authors have stolen their best-known writings from obscure works in foreign languages. English gives three examples: Richard H. Dana has included a stanza in “The Buccaneer” which is an almost literal translation from the French poet Le Mereux; Dickens has based a passage in The Old Curiosity Shop on the French author Le Pere Barbazon, and Bryant has borrowed verses from the Spanish author Pedro de Penaflor for his “Thanatopsis.” English quotes the sources plagiarized in the original French and Spanish. He provides translations, which are printed alongside the suspected passages in Dana, Dickens, and Bryant. Clearly, these three writers have copied the foreign works. English promises further revelations of authorial wrongdoing:

This is not all. Pursuing my researches farther, I became astonished at the coincidences I met with. Would you believe, that “Thanatopsis” is culled from various Spanish writers, — that the “Excelsior” and “The Village Blacksmith” of Longfellow are nearly literal translations from the Swedish, — that Hawthorne's best articles are bold piracies, — that one of Washington Irving's tales is taken from an old English magazine, — that Bulwer filched his “Night and Morning” from first to last, except a little nonsense of his own, — that Walter Scott stole two of the finest passages in his Ivanhoe from an old writer, — that the nonsense of Carlyle is in many instances a translation from the German, — and that young Russel[l] Lowell has laid violent hands on an old German tale, and chopped it up into divers original poems? Would you believe all [page 678:] this? Perhaps not; but when a new work on “Plagiarism” appears, — a large octavo work which I am now preparing for press, — you will alter your opinion. I shall then be armed with such an array of facts that will over throw skepticism and confound the boldest.

NOTE: “Stealing from Abroad,” which was published anonymously, evoked a protest from some readers of the Museum. In the next issue, the paper's editor discussed the circumstances surrounding; the article's publication; he then identified English as its author (see the chronology for February 10). “Stealing from Abroad” contains no evidence which would establish that English intended it as another satiric attack on Poe, an author who often displayed his knowledge of foreign languages and who was far too ready to accuse other writers of plagiarism. English may be obliquely alluding to Poe's literary criticism, but many other literati were quick to raise the charge of plagiarism. For example, Henry B. Hirst facetiously accused English of plagiarism in the October 26, 1840, issue of the Daily Chronicle; and in January, 1844, an anonymous critic in the London Foreign Quarterly Review asserted that American poets had largely borrowed their style and substance from European models.

ANTE FEBRUARY 9 [?]: Poe writes James Russell Lowell. He wishes to deliver his lecture on “American Poetry” in Boston, and he asks Lowell to ascertain whether any learned society in that city would be willing to sponsor his address. Poe apparently offers to write a biographical sketch of his correspondent for the “Our Contributors” series then appearing in Graham's Magazine.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Lowell's March 6 reply; this dating is suggested by George R. Graham's February 9 letter to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. [page 679:]

FEBRUARY 9: George R. Graham, in Philadelphia, writes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

I send the proof here with [of a contribution to Graham's Magazine. ] I wish it had been original, as such are worth three times the sum to a magazine. A translation is merely noticed by the press while an original from your pen is always widely copied and commented on.

However I hold you to your promise of an original soon, and am obliged to you for sending the enclosed. It will appear in the April number, with one from Willis and another from Bryant. ... .

Graham discusses an unpublished manuscript in his possession:

I have a savage review of your “Spanish Student” from the pen of Poe, which shall not appear in Graham. I do not know what your crime may be in the eyes of Poe, but suppose it may be a better, and more widely established reputation. Or if you have wealth — which I hope you have — that is sufficient to settle your damnation so far as Mr Poe may be presumed capable of effecting it[.]

The rascal borrowed some money of me the other day to take him to Boston and I learned within the hour afterward abused me at the next corner as an exclusive. I am so unfortunate as to have many of his MSS. to cover loans, but we part company as soon as I publish some of the least venomous. I had to suffer $30 for the review of you and you shall have it for as many cents when you come along this way. I do not suppose it will ever be redeemed, and I doubt if the writer of it will be.

NOTE: MS, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Longfellow apparently sent the translation and a promise of future contributions in response to Rufus W. Griswold's December 26, 1843, letter to him, which also discussed the unfavorable review of The Spanish Student in Graham's possession. This publisher seems to have been using Poe's manuscript as a stimulus to encourage Longfellow's contributions to [page 680:] Graham's Magazine. At this time Poe hoped to deliver his lecture on “American Poetry” in Boston (see James Russell Lowell's March 6, 1844, letter to him).

FEBRUARY 10: The editor of the Saturday Museum, p. 2, col. 4, comments on “Stealing from Abroad”:


There appeared last week in the columns of the Museum, under the head of Original Essays, an

article pretending to skew [sic] that several eminent and popular writers of the day, had stolen literally from French and Spanish writers of a former day, important or striking passages. Among those accused of these thefts, were Bryant, Lowell, Dana, Dickens, Southey, Longfellow, Hawthorn[e], Irving, Bulwer, Scott and Carlyle. As the whole of these foreign passages prove to be forgeries, the editor of the Museum deems it due to himself and his press, to state under what circumstances the article found its way into his columns.

The present editor was engaged by the Proprietor only a fortnight ago, when Mr. Clark[e] retired from this department of the paper. A number of manuscripts were handed, at the time, to the present editor, which, not having leisure to examine carefully, and taking for granted that they were suitable for publication, he sent to the printing office. He was informed at the time, that the article in question was written by Mr. Thomas Dunn English, whose previous contributions to the Museum, had not only been acceptable to the publishers, but -to the public. The name seemed, even if the editor had had an opportunity of duly examining the article, a sufficient guaranty for its propriety. Mr. English has since avowed the authorship. If any credit attaches to it as an ingenious artifice, the editor wishes that Mr. English may have the benefit of it. If, on the contrary, it is discreditable to this paper, the editor trusts that this statement may acquit himself of censure.

FEBRUARY 18: Poe writes George Lippard: “It will give me pleasure to attend to what you suggest. In a day or two [page 681:] you shall hear from me farther.” Poe gives his evaluation

of a novel Lippard has recently published:

Touching the “Ladye Annabel,” I regret that, until lately, I could find no opportunity of giving it a thorough perusal. The opinion I expressed to you, personally, was based, as I told you, upon a very cursory examination. It has been confirmed, however, by a subsequent reading at leisure. You seem to have been in too desperate a hurry to give due attention to details; and thus your style, although generally nervous, is at times somewhat exuberant — but the work, as a whole, will be admitted, by all but your personal enemies, to be richly inventive and imaginative — indicative of genius in its author.

Lippard has stated that he has enemies, and his correspondent gives him a word of advice:

And as for these personal enemies, I cannot see that you need put yourself to any especial trouble about THEM. Let a fool alone — especially if he be both a scoundrel and a fool — and he will kill himself far sooner than you can kill him by any active exertion. Besides — as to the real philosophy of the thin — you should regard small animosities — the animosities of small men — of the literary animalculae who have their uses, beyond doubt — as so many tokens of our ascent — or, rather as so man stepping stones to our ambition. I have never ,yet been able to make up my mind whether I regard as the higher compliment, the approbation of a man of honor and talent, or the abuse of an ass or a blackguard. Both are excellent in their way — for a man who looks steadily up.

NOTE: Letters, I, 242-.43. According to De Grazia, “George Lippard,” pp. 112, 126, the serial publication of The Ladye Annabel was commenced in The Citizen Soldier on November 29, 1843; the novel was issued in “a cheap paper edition” early in 1844.

FEBRUARY 23: John. Tomlin, in Jackson, Tennessee, writes Poe: he has not heard from his correspondent since he [page 682:] forwarded “the libellous letter” of Lambert A. Wilmer on September 10, 1843. Tomlin inquires about Poe's relations with Wilmer:

Did you inflict on him a chastisement equal to the injury he designed, by the publication of such scandals? Previous to the reception of that letter, I had entertained a good opinion of the “Quacks of Helicon” man, and it had been brought about in a great measure by your Review of the Book. In his former letters, he not only spoke kindly of you, but seemed disposed to become your advocate, against the littérateurs of Philadelphia. I hope that you will forgive him, and that he will go, and “Sin no more.”

Tomlin expresses his admiration for Poe's most recent critical essay: “Your Review of ‘Orion’ in the . ... March No. of ‘Graham's,’ I have read with much pleasure. The article is one of great ability. I know of no writer whose success in life would give me more sincere pleasure than that of yourself.”

NOTE: Works, XVII, 158.

March, 1844

MARCH: Graham's Magazine publishes Poe's lengthy essay on Richard Henry Horne's epic poem Orion. His verdict is unusually favorable: “‘Orion’ will be admitted, by every man of genius, to be one of the noblest, if not the very noblest poetical work of the age. Its defects are trivial and conventional — its beauties intrinsic and supreme.”

NOTE: Richard Henry Horne, an English poet, later corresponded with Poe. Posterity has not upheld Poe's judgment on Orion, but several of his friends believed that [page 683:] this critique was one of his best. In reviewing Graham's Magazine for The Spirit of the Times, February 22, p. 2, col. 3, John S. Du Solle commented: “The review of ‘Orion,’ by Edgar A. Poe, is a rare production — one of those strong, thoughtful, intelligible, and truth-telling papers, which only come across us about once in a century.” John Tomlin stated his admiration for this review in his February 23 letter to Poe.

MARCH: An anonymous reviewer in Graham's Magazine notices the Poems of James Russell Lowell. This critic begins his review by describing Lowell as the nation's foremost poet:

This new volume of poems by Mr. Lowell will place him, in the estimation of all whose opinion he will be likely to value, at the very head of the poets of America. For our own part, we have not the slightest hesitation in saying, that we regard the “Legend of Brittany” as by far the finest poetical work, of equal length, which the country has produced. We have only to regret, just now, that the late period at which we received the volume, and the great length to which Mr. Poe has been seduced into a notice of “Orion,” will preclude an extended notice and analysis this month of Mr. Lowell's volume. This, however, we propose at some future period. For the present, we must content ourselves, perforce, with some very cursory and unconnected comments.

Mr. Lowell is, in some measure, infected with the poetical conventionalities of the day — those upon which Mr. Poe has descanted in speaking of Mr. Horne's epic. ... .

NOTE: James A. Harrison included this review in Poe's Works, XI, 243-49, but it may well be from some other hand. Poe's essay on Orion in the March Graham's was not placed in the monthly's “Review of New Books” section, but was published as a signed contribution. The critique of Lowell's Poems appeared as an unsigned review at the head of [page 684:] the “Review of New Books.” Although Poe expressed a desire to review Lowell's Poems for Graham's in his October 19, 1843, letter to this New England poet, Lowell's March 6, 1844, letter to him establishes that George R. Graham had not rehired him as the journal's book review editor. Of course, the anonymous writer who reviewed Lowell's Poems echoed several of Poe's maxims for poetry: he condemned “the error of didacticism,” and he emphasized that “the sole legitimate object of the true poem is the creation of beauty.” But there were a number of Philadelphia literati who could imitate Poe's literary criticism. In reviewing Rufus W. Griswold's The Poets and Poetry of America for the January 28, 1843, issue of the Saturday Museum, Henry B. Hirst not only imitated Poe's style, but also stated Poe's private grievances against the anthologist. In his June 4, 1842, letter to Joseph Evans Snodgrass, Poe complained that the unsigned review of Bulwer's Zanoni in Graham's Magazine for June, 1842, was “the handiwork of some underling” who had copied his “peculiarities of diction.” If Poe had written the review of Lowell's Poems for the March, 1844, Graham's, it is doubtful that he would have regretted “the great length to which Mr. Poe has been seduced into a notice of ‘Orion.’” [[Update: This review is by Poe, as demonstrated in The Poe Log, pp. 666, 673 — Dwight Thomas.]]

CIRCA MARCH: Poe, in the company of Henry B. Hirst, expresses a desire to see “a particular article” in an early volume of the Southern Literary Messenger. Hirst. offers to obtain “the desired volume” for his friend from the private library of William Duane, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer. Poe consents to this proposal; Hirst borrows the volume from Duane. Poe retains the Messenger for only “a very short time”; he then entrusts it to Mrs. Clemm, who [page 685:] is to deliver it to Hirst. Instead of returning the volume, Mrs. Clemm sells it to William A. Leary, a Philadelphia bookseller, who, in turn, sells it to a bookseller in Richmond, Virginia.

NOTE: For documentation, see Poe's letters to William Duane, dated October 28, 1844, and January 28, 1845, in the Letters, I, 263-64, 276; and see Duane's notes written on these two letters, in Woodberry, Life, II, 365-68. This approximate dating is suggested by Poe's October 28, 1844, letter to Duane: here he dated his conversation with Hirst as “Some eight months ago,” and he stated that more than seven months have elapsed since he asked Mrs. Clemm to return the Messenger. Poe appended a postscript to his April 7, 1844, letter to Mrs. Clemm which also supports this dating: “Be sure &take home the Messenger . ... .” See the Letters, I, 252. McElroy's Philadelphia Directory for 1844 locates William A. Leary's bookstore at 158 North Second Street. In his note on Poe's January 28, 1845, letter, Duane stated that his volume of the Messenger was sold to Leary “among a lot of books” belonging to the poet. Woodberry, II, 368, plausibly suggests that this sale was “a natural blunder made in the confusion of the removal” of the Poe family to New York.

MARCH 1: Poe replies to John C. Myers, Samuel Williams, and William Greaff, Jr., members of the Mechanics’ Institute of Reading, Pennsylvania, who have invited him to deliver

his lecture on “American Poetry” before their Society:

Through some accident which I am at a loss to understand, your letter dated and postmarked Decr 29, has only this moment come to hand; having been lying, ever since, in the Phila P. Office. I hope, therefore, you will exonerate me from the charge of discourtesy in not sooner replying to your very [page 686:] flattering request.

I presume that your Lectures are over for the season; but, should this not be the case, it will give me great pleasure to deliver a Discourse before your Society at any period you may appoint; not later than the 9th inst.

NOTE: Letters, I , 244.

MARCH 5: Samuel Williams and William Graeff, Jr., reply to Poe's March 1 letter, inviting him to deliver his lecture on “American Poetry” before the Mechanics’ Institute of Reading, Pennsylvania.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Poe's March 7 reply.

MARCH 6: James Russell Lowell writes Poe: “When I received your last letter I was very busily employed upon a job article on a subject in which I have no manner of interest. As I had nothing to say, it took me a great while to say it.” Lowell does not believe that Poe's lecture on “American Poetry” would succeed in Boston at the present time. The lectures “of a more literary class” have been concluded for the year. He adds: “I spoke to the secretary of the Boston Lyceum about the probability of your success if you came experimentally, and he shook his head. It is not a matter in which I feel myself competent to judge — my bump of hope being quite too large. I asked him about engaging you for next year &he seemed very much pleased with the plan &said that the Society would be glad to do it.” The lectures sponsored by the Lyceum hold “the highest

rank” in Boston; the Society pays each speaker “from fifty to a hundred dollars, as their purse is full or empty.” Since Lowell would be delighted to see Poe and to hear [page 687:] his lecture, he promises to “put matters in train” for the coming year: “The Boston people want a little independent criticism vastly. I know that we should not agree exactly, but we should at least sympathize. You occasionally state a critical proposition from which I dissent, but I am always satisfied. I care not a straw what a man says, if I see that he has his grounds for it, &knows thoroughly what he is talking about.” Poe will be pleased to learn of the success of Lowell's Poems: some eleven hundred copies of the volume have already been sold. Lowell discusses his correspondence with George R. Graham: “Writing to him a short time ago I congratulated him upon having engaged you as editor again. I recognized your hand in some of the editorial matter (critical) &missed it in the rest. But I thought it would do no harm to assume the fact, as it would at least give him a hint. He tells me I am mistaken &I am sorry for it.” Lowell will soon forward a sketch of his life to Poe, who has offered to write his biography for the “Our Contributors” series then appearing in Graham's Magazine: “Outwardly it [Lowell's life] has been simple enough, but inwardly every man's life must be more or less of a curiosity. Goethe made a good distinction when he divided his own autobiography into poetry &fact.” Lowell asks Poe: “When will Graham give us your portrait? I hope you will have it done well when it is done, &quickly too.”

NOTE: Works, XVII, 158-60. Lowell was not the only person who suspected that Poe was again the critic of Graham's Magazine; it is probable that the monthly's anonymous reviewers were consciously attempting to imitate Poe's literary criticism. For additional information, see the chronology for January 27, March, 1844. Each installment of the “Our Contributors” series featured a portrait and a [page 688:] biographical sketch of a prominent contributor to Graham's Magazine. In his October 19, 1843, letter to Lowell, Poe had inquired as to the identity of Lowell's biographer. The present letter suggests that in his most recent letter to Lowell, datable ante February 9, 1844, Poe had offered to write his correspondent's biography.

MARCH 7: Poe replies to Samuel Williams and William Graeff, Jr.: “I have just received your favor of the 5th, and will be pleased to deliver a Lecture on ‘American Poetry’ in Reading, on Tuesday the 12th inst., if convenient. Please reply by return of mail and let me know at what place I shall meet the Committee.”

NOTE: Letters, I, 244-45

POST MARCH 7: Samuel Williams and William Graeff, Jr., reply to Poe, informing him where to meet the Committee of the Mechanics’ Institute.

NOTE: This letter is implied by Poe's March 7 letter.

MARCH 9: Two newspapers published in Reading, Pennsylvania, report that Poe will speak in this city on March 12. The Berks and Schuylkill Journal announces that “A stated meeting of the Mechanics’ Institute . ... on Tuesday evening next at 7:00 o’clock” will feature a “lecture by Edgar A. Poe of Philadelphia.” Another brief notice is carried by the Reading Gazette: “Lecture — Edgar A. Poe, Esq. will deliver a Lecture before the Mechanics’ Institute, and the public, on Tuesday evening,` next at the Academy Hall. Subject. —’American Poetry.’”

NOTE: These newspapers are quoted by J. Bennett Nolan, Israfel in Berkshire, p. 15. [page 689:]

MARCH 11: The Public Ledger, p. 2, col. 3, reports: “EDGAR A. POE, ESQ., is to deliver a lecture on Friday evening next, before the Mechanics’ Institute of Reading, on ‘American Poetry.’ The people of that borough will be pleased with the lecture.”

NOTE: It is probable that Poe lectured in Reading on Tuesday, March 12, rather than on Friday, March 15, as stated in the Ledger's notice. For additional information, see the chronology for March 12.

MARCH 12: The Spirit of the Times, p. 2, col. 2, reports: “EDGAR A. POE, ESQ. lectures on Friday evening, at Reading. Mr. P. is a finished scholar; a man of taste, genius, and nice discrimination.”

NOTE: The Spirit's report may be based on the Ledger's notice of the preceding day.

MARCH 12: Poe lectures on “American Poetry” in Reading, Pennsylvania„

NOTE: This dating is indicated by Poe's letter of March 7 and by the advance notices which appeared in two Reading newspapers on March 9. The editors of the Reading papers were presumably in direct communication with the Committee of Invitation of the Mechanics’ Institute, and their dating should therefore be considered more reliable than the variant dating given in the advance notices published by several Philadelphia papers on March 11 and 12. The only known review of Poe's lecture appeared in the Baltimore Sun, March 21, p. 2, col. 2: “EDGAR A. POE, ESQ. — This distinguished writer delivered his much extolled lecture on the ‘Poets and Poetry of America,’ at Reading, Pa., on Wednesday [Tuesday?] evening last. He was greeted by a [page 690:] large and highly respectable audience, and they testified their approbation of the lecture by repeated bursts of applause.” The Sun's, dating, like that given by the Philadelphia papers, may be incorrect.

MARCH 15: Poe writes Cornelius Mathews, a New York author:

I have a letter and small parcel for Mr Horne, your friend, and the author of “Orion”. Would you be so kind as to furnish me with his address? — and to put me in the best way of forwarding the package securely?

I am reminded that I am your debtor for many little attentions, and embrace this opportunity of tendering you my especial thanks for your able pamphlet on the International Copy-Right Question, and for the admirable Adventures of Puffer Hopkins.

Could I imagine that, at any moment, you regarded a certain impudent and flippant critique as more than a matter to be laughed at, I would proffer you an apology on the spot. Since I scribbled the article in question, you yourself have given me fifty good reasons for being ashamed of it.

NOTE: Letters, I, 245 — 46. Poe had praised Richard Henry Horne's Orion at length in Graham's Magazine for March. The “impudent and flippant critique” Poe mentioned would have been his scathing; review of Mathews’ epic poem Wakondah in the February, 1842, number of Graham's. Evidence that Poe also disliked Mathews’ novel Puffer Hopkins (1842) may be found in the chronology for January, 1843. The two men became literary allies after Poe settled in New York.

POST MARCH 15 [?]: Cornelius Mathews writes Poe, furnishing the address of Richard Henry Horne.

NOTE: This letter is implied by Poe's March 15 letter [page 691:] to Mathews.

POST MARCH 15: Poe writes Richard Henry Horne, enclosing the manuscript of “The Spectacles.” Apparently, Poe asks Horne to use his influence to secure the publication of this story in a British magazine.

NOTE: The contents of this letter are surmised from Horne's April 16 and 27, 1844, letters to Poe, which are printed in Woodberry's Life, II, 50-55. Horne's April 27 letter also appears in the Works, XVII, 167-69.

MARCH 20: Nearly two hundred “friends and natives of Ireland” attend a dinner held at the Congress Hall Hotel to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. Thomas Dunn English, one of the principal speakers on this occasion, receives several toasts. The Dinner Committee toasts him as “The able and ardent advocate of Repeal.” Thomas H. Lane offers a volunteer toast: “Thomas Dunn English, Esq. — Eloquent, zealous and untiring; enemies may asperse, but friends respect him.”

NOTE: This event was reported by the United States Gazette, March 21, p. 1, cols. 6-8. Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, fell on a Sunday in 1844.

MARCH 22: Abijah M. Ide, Jr., writes Poe from South Attleborough, Massachusetts: “I am now at my old home again and, in the coming Spring and Summer, I shall plough the same old fields, and make hay on the greensward, that first gave me lessons in labor. I have had the good fortune, this winter, to make such acquisition of wealth as places me now before the world: and with such advantages, as I have from that source, I promise myself a pleasant life [page 692:] to come.” Ide has purchased volumes of poetry by Longfellow, Lowell, and other New England authors; he asks his correspondent to identify “such volumes” which would be the most profitable reading for a young poet. In spite of “the wearisome tasks” Ide has been forced to perform in the winter months, he has written much poetry during this time: “These poems have been written in the small hours of dark and stormy nights — often when I could hear &feel the wind and

rain and snow, against the roof and window of my room. — I have published little. A total lack of acquaintance with gentlemen connected with the literary Magazines &newspapers, has withheld me from offering but few lines for publication.” Because of the “many friendly expressions” in Poe's former letter to him, Ide ventures to ask his correspondent for advice: “What publication would you advise me to send my poetry to; and ought I to send it anonymously, or not? You know better about those things than I do, and can speak freely.” Ide concludes his letter by transcribing several lines from one of his poems.

NOTE: Works, XVII, 162-64

MARCH 27: The Dollar Newspaper publishes Poe's tale of “The Spectacles.”

NOTE: On March 28 The Spirit of the Times, p. 2, col. 2, reported: “THE DOLLAR NEWSPAPER of this week is a choice number. Poe's Story of ‘The Spectacles’ is alone worth double the price of the paper.”

MARCH 30: Poe replies to James Russell Lowell's March 6 letter. He discusses the “Our Contributors” [page 693:] series then being published by Graham's Magazine. The April number contains a memoir of Nathaniel P. Willis “by a Mr Landor”; this article is “full of hyperbole.” Poe offers a more conservative estimate of this author's merits: “Willis is no genius — a graceful trifler — no more. He wants force &sincerity. He is very frequently far-fetched. In me, at least, he never excites an emotion.” Poe himself plans to write the memoir of Lowell for this series: “Graham has been speaking to me, lately, about your Biography, and I am anxious to write it at once-always provided you have no objection. Could you forward me the materials within a day or two? I am just now quite disengaged — in fact positively idle.” Poe answers his correspondent's query: “You inquire about my own portrait. It has been done for some time — but is better as an engraving, than as a portrait. It scarcely resembles me at all. When it will appear I cannot say. ... . My Life is not yet written, and I am at a sad loss for a Biographer — for Graham insists upon leaving the matter to myself.” Poe is glad to learn of the success of Lowell's Poems: “To sell eleven hundred copies of a bound book of American poetry, is to do wonders.” He asks: “Have you seen the article on ‘American Poetry’ in the ‘London Foreign Quarterly’? It has been denied that Dickens wrote it — but, to me, the article affords so strong internal evidence of his hand that I would as soon think of doubting my existence. He tells much truth — although he evinces much ignorance and more spleen. Among other points he accuses myself of ‘metrical imitation’ of Tennyson, citing, by way of instance, passages from poems which were written &published by me long before Tennyson was heard of: — but I have, at no time, made any poetical pretension.” Like the anonymous British reviewer, however, Poe believes that [page 694:] the present condition of American literature is “dreadful”; and he suggests two remedies to his correspondent: “We want two things, certainly: — an International Copy-Right Law, and a well-founded Monthly Journal, of sufficient ability, circulation, and character, to control and so give tone to, our Letters.” The monthly magazine Poe envisions has previously been described in the prospectuses he issued for the Penn Magazine and The Stylus: “It should be, externally, a specimen of high, but not too refined Taste: — I mean, it should be boldly printed, on excellent paper, in single column, and be illustrated, not merely embellished, by spirited wood designs in the style of Grandville. Its chief aims should be Independence, Truth, Originality. It should be a journal of some 120 pp, and furnished at $5.” He believes that this journal could achieve a circulation of one hundred thousand copies in a year or two: it “might be made to exercise a prodigious influence, and would be a source of vast wealth to its proprietors.” A novel method for financing and editing the magazine is proposed:

Such a journal might, perhaps, be set on foot by a coalition, and, thus set on foot, with proper understanding, would be irresistible. Suppose, for example, that the élite of our men of letters should combine secretly. Many of them control papers&c. Let each subscribe, say $21100, for the commencement of the undertaking; furnishing other means, as required from time to time, until the work be established. The articles to be supplied by the members solely, and upon a concerted plan of action. A nominal editor to be elected from among the number. How could such a journal fail? I would like very much to hear your opinion upon this, matter. Could not the “ball be set in motion”? If we do not defend ourselves by some such coalition, we shall be devoured, without mercy, by the Godeys, the Snowdens, et id genus omne.

NOTE: Letters, I, 246-48. “William Landor” was a pseudonym used by the well-to-do Philadelphian Horace Binney Wallace. [page 695:] Although Poe did not write a biography of Lowell for Graham's Magazine, this New England poet furnished a sketch of him for the February, 1845, number. Harrison reprinted Lowell's “Our Contributors. — No. XVII: Edgar Allan Poe” in the Works, I, 367-83. This article was illustrated with a portrait by A. C. Smith, which is reproduced in Phillips’ Poe, I, 860. Additional information on the London Foreign Quarterly Review's article on “American Poetry” is entered in the chronology for January, 1844.

April, 1844

APRIL: Godey's Lady's Book publishes “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.”

NOTE: John S. Du Solle showed his approval of this story by reprinting it in two installments in his Spirit of the Times, March 27, p. 1, cols. 46, and March 28, p. 1, cols. 45. “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” is the last work Poe published during his residence in Philadelphia; it is as well the only work he published in Godey's Lady's Book during this period. Poe had almost certainly written “The Balloon-Hoax” and “The Purloined Letter” in Philadelphia, although these two works were not published until after his departure. “The Balloon-Hoax” appeared in the New York Sun on April 13, 1844 — only a week after he left the city. “The Purloined Letter” appeared in the 1845 edition of Carey &Hart's popular annual, The Gift. In his May 31, 1844, letter to Edward L. Carey (Letters, II, 706), Poe asked to be sent advance proofs of this story: his request, coming less than two months after he left Philadelphia, may well indicate that it had been sold prior to his departure. In [page 696:] all probability, Poe completed at least a preliminary draft of “The Raven” while living in Philadelphia. According to one tradition, he composed his most famous work at Saratoga Springs, New York, in the summer of 1843. According to another, he submitted the poem to George R. Graham, who decided it was unsuitable for Graham's Magazine. Information on the first tradition may be found in the directory entries for James and Mary Barhyte, William Elliott Griffis, and E. M. Murdock. The second is discussed in the directory entries for William Johnston and Horace Wemyss Smith.

APRIL 6 (SATURDAY): At approximately 6:15 AM Poe and his wife Virginia arrive at the Walnut Street wharf. In the next forty-five minutes they read three Philadelphia newspapers: the Public Ledger, the Daily Chronicle, and The Spirit of the Times. At approximately 7:00 AM they leave Philadelphia on a train bound for New York City.

NOTE: This entry is based on Poe's April 7, 1844, letter to Mrs. Maria Clemm; see the Letters, I, 251-53.





[S:0 - PIP, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Poe in Philadelphia, 1838-1844 (D. R. Thomas) (Chapter 08)